Renowned archaeologist KK Muhammad in a recent online interaction went into raptures about the erstwhile Nalanda University and said that it was much bigger and more ancient than the modern universities such as Strasbourg, Oxford and Cambridge.
“Nalanda, even in 3rd, 4th, 5th century was an international university. We have this first modern university in Paris, which is called Strasbourg University which came up in the 12th century. Then in the 13th century, we had Oxford University and around the same time, another university in Cambridge also came up,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad further added, “Seven-eight hundred years before, you had a bigger university in India, where students came not only from the Indian subcontinent….but from a number of other countries, from Japan, China. Hsuan Tsang was himself a student at Nalanda University. He studied for two years at the university. He then became a teacher here. Similarly, students from Indonesia, Malaysia also came to study here.”
Describing the immensity of Nalanda University, KK Muhammad said the king of Sumatra donated four villages for the library of Nalanda alone.
“So when you walk on the mounds of Nalanda or on its soil, you should remember, you are walking in the footsteps of a university where Hsuan Tsang walked over many centuries ago. Each and every brick of Nalanda will tell you a brilliant story of that period,” said Muhammad, who was also a part of a team of archaeologists which had carried out the first excavation at the Babri structure at Ayodhya in 1976-77. In his findings then, Muhammad had declared that a Ram Temple existed before the controversial structure was built in the 15th century.
KK Muhammad has also written a book called ‘Njanenna Bharatheeyan‘, where he was at his eloquent best showering praises on the Nalanda University for preserving India’s cultural heritage. At its peak, the university attracted students from near and far, with people travelling from Tibet, China, Korea and other Central Asian countries. As per Archaeological evidence unearthed in the excavation of Nalanda University, a monastery within the University complex was built by one of the kings of the Shailendra Dynasty of Indonesia.
Nalanda thrived under the patronage of the Gupta Empire in the 5th and 6th centuries, which is often termed as India’s Golden period. . The university continued to flourish in the next three centuries. The subsequent centuries witnessed a gradual decline, a period during which militant Islamism spread its ugly claws around much of Asia and Africa.
Nalanda University destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khalji
Nalanda was destroyed three times but was rebuilt only twice. It was ransacked and destroyed by a marauding army of the Mamluk Dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate under Bakhtiyar Khalji in 1193. The ruined university which produced legends as Aryabhatta, Dharmapala and Nagarjuna were later excavated during British rule. But with the University gone, we lost vast reserves of knowledge and wisdom accumulated in centuries. One can never predict the scientific advancement India would have achieved had this University allowed to function.